Andy Zilch wears many hats for the Utica Comets. Initially replacing Brendan Burke as the team's radio voice and travel director, Zilch was welcomed aboard last August. A closer look inside the St. Louis native's evolving job description illustrates why Zilch might be the busiest person at The AUD.
Q: What has been your biggest surprise since joining the Comets?
A: How well I have been treated by Robert Esche (Comets President). He certainly values his employees and treats them as so. I’m so thankful to be working for the best organization in the AHL.
Q: How close were you last summer to looking for work outside of broadcasting?
A: The thought did cross my mind by the end of the summer but only briefly. It was something I didn’t want to concern myself until all broadcasting possibilities were exhausted. My parents were concerned as well.
Q: In December your title changed (Director of Communications was added), and responsibilities increased. How was that adjustment period?
A: The first month was taxing. Going into the Christmas break is when I felt I was where I wanted to be. Nick Mecca's (Rome, NY native and Comets broadcasting and communication intern) work has helped me considerably. Going into the season, my plan was to have Nick be the fail-safe option should anything abnormal occur. Nick's done a great job in helping with the work load on game day.
Q: Having spent the previous two seasons with the Springfield Falcons, how did that experience help you in your transition to the Comets?
A: My final year in Springfield, I was doing all the communications, social media, corporate sales and community relations. During the first year, I was responsible for ticket sales but that was subtracted from my workload for year two. Of course, there was the broadcasting aspect and the public relations but that was extremely light. Here (Utica), I'm overseeing the travel and subtracting the community relations. Once I settled into the travel arrangements, the other responsibilities were similar.
Q: What are your responsibilities on a daily basis?
A: I book team flights and buses; all the way down to what time the bus leaves, and how long the trip will be by the hour. With this, I write our monthly schedule for the players and hockey operations staff. I book our hotels, pre-game meals, team per diem, road rooming list, write player bios, update information to the AHL website, all website content, press releases and I'm the liaison for the Jr. Comets mentorship program, host hotel, local media and Vancouver media. In addition, I am the point-person between the staff and the players/coaches. Social media is included and that is a constant 24/7 overview. Oh, and I help the equipment staff unload the bus, too.
Q: What time do you start on game day and what does that entail?
A: Everyday I'm up between 6:00 a.m.- 6:15 a.m. After I go to the gym and eat breakfast, I'm back at the rink to post the game day preview and print all stat packs for the media, our team and the opposing team. I then shoot the video preview for the night that will play before the game. Afterwards, I’ll checkout practice to find out who our scratches will be, update stats on the opposing team, then go on KROCK with Rain. I’ll have a "mental getaway" for about two hours then go back to the rink for preparation and get ready for the game.
Q: What is your responsibilities after a game and what time do you leave The AUD?
A: After the post-game show, I go into the office and prepare the recap and send the press release to all media, then post on all social media. The game day sellout counter is updated, the 50/50 gets updated and Nick handles all statistics. I can't give Nick enough credit for what he does. He's made a world of a difference and this includes occasional postgame recaps and previews for me to review. The postgame responsibilities take about an hour to do. If there are no mistakes, I should be out by midnight at the latest. Photos will be posted the next day. Andrew Chow handles the video aspect with posting the highlights and interviews.
Q: Last season, Craig Cunningham played for Springfield. What were your thoughts when you first heard that something happened to him?
A: At, first, I didn't think the worst. (Cunningham collapsed on the ice prior to a Tucson Roadrunners game in Tucson, Arizona due to acute cardiac arrest) It didn't sink in. He was my team’s captain last year and once I learned the severity of it, I became almost speechless. It was a horrible situation and I felt bad for his family. His mom was in the crowd when he went down.
Q: Back to your travel responsibilities. Many details to keep track of?
A: The hotels are all booked before the season begins. The toughest part – the rooming list. It's almost day-to-day changes the week before the trip. Then, there's the per diem for each player. You figure out what meals to have for the team, post an itinerary for the trip; when practice will be, when the team will be getting to the arena and when and where the meal is.
Q: When did you know that you wanted a career in broadcasting?
A: Listening to Ken Wilson (Blues' radio voice for 20 seasons) and Chris Kerber (current Blues play-by-play broadcaster) motivated me. They had a big influence. I liked their excitement in every game. When I was younger, it was like clockwork: At 7:00p.m. on Saturdays, we were greeted by the Blues. My mom, dad, brother, and sister, we're all Blues' fans. My mom actually introduced my dad to hockey.
Q: You co-host Comets Faceoff (WPNY TV) with Austin Fontanella. How has the cross-over from radio to TV gone?
A: I was a TV anchor and reporter for three years in college. It's (TV) not new to me.
Q: If you could have dinner with any broadcaster(s), who are you seated with?
A: Bob Costas, Joe Buck, Chris Kerber and Dan McLaughlin. All are St. Louis born and excellent broadcasters. We would all be talking up the Blues and Cardinals and cussing the Rams.
Q: What does your family back in St. Louis think of your interest in broadcasting?
A: We're fairly close. Everybody fully supports me and we talk constantly over the phone and video chat. They were pretty worrisome this past summer. They saw how hard I worked the past four years. My dad was frustrated, as he saw my struggles to land a job. My mom was upset, too. It somehow ended up better in the end.
Q: Would you say this has been your most challenging time in your career?
A: Yes, as far as the workload is concerned. Last year was pretty tough but the media coverage upset me the most. I just couldn't get the team covered. That's where the frustration was. I tried and tried. Things just weren't working as I desired. But, here I'm easily getting that. This season, I have a bigger work load that includes the travel and the team responsibilities. But, the little things that Nick does on game day make a big difference. I can't credit Nick enough. He helps us (Comets) look better.